Fig and Honey Bircher Muesli

bircher muesli #voraciousvander

I used to be one of those people who grabbed a coffee on the way to class or work and called it breakfast. Somewhere around the time that I began my first full-time job and started to run for exercise, I decided to try behaving like an adult and make breakfast a priority. I haven’t looked back since.

Breakfast during the week is what I dream about on my morning run, it’s my fuel and¬†nourishment. On the weekends it’s a recreational activity – going out and getting the freshest bread we can find, trying a new restaurant, meeting up with friends, making something warm and slightly elaborate and enjoying it over too much coffee and the weekend papers.

Any way it’s had, breakfast is a happy part of my day.

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Stewed Rhubarb & Apple

Are you down with this stewed fruit situation?

Tart vegetable rhubarb is perfect for stewing and develops an irresistible magenta color when cooked.

Apples are a classic too – with a little cinnamon and some stove-top love they suddenly feel more indulgent than your average crunchy snack version.

Stewed fruit is for slowing down and getting cozy. For warm breakfasts and desserts with vibrant, spice-flecked sweetness – it’s an easy way to transform winter fruit into something even more exciting.

You can cook up a big batch for the week and gently reheat portions to use as a topping for oats, yogurt, ice cream or as a crumble base. You can’t go wrong.

To stew fruit, you need:
1. Fruit chopped into bite-sited pieces
2. A little water
3. Honey or other sweetener like maple or sugar (optional for naturally sweet fruit like apples, pears and strawberries. I suggest it for the rhubarb.)
4. Spices like cinnamon and/or nutmeg (optional)

Toast a couple of tablespoons of quinoa in a dry pan over a medium-low heat, shaking the pan occasionally until they begin to pop slightly like popcorn and smell nutty. Use as a garnish to add an unexpected crunch.

Cook oats with coconut milk for a creamy, non-dairy porridge with a hit of sweet coconut.

Stewed rhubarb
– 1 bunch rhubarb, stems chopped into 1-inch/2.5-cm chunks
– 2 tablespoons honey
– 1/4 cup water

In a saucepan with a lid bring the water, honey and rhubarb to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook covered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the fruit is soft but not falling apart. The water should be reduced slightly and become bright pink and slightly syrupy in consistency.

Stewed apple
– apple, cut into 1/2 inch/1 cm slices (peel them, don’t peel them. let your level of laziness guide you.)
– a couple of pinches of cinnamon
– a couple of tablespoons of water

In a saucepan with a lid cook apples, cinnamon and water covered over a medium low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water by the spoonful if the pan dries out at any point – you’re mainly looking for the natural sugars to come out and make the fruit slightly jammy. Cook until the apples are fork tender and most of the liquid is gone.

Chewy Coconut Muesli Bars with Figs and Almonds

There is a window of time about 15-20 minutes long between when my blood sugar dips and hunger takes over. If something is not consumed within this time (anything – a single large Brazil nut – something) I become downright unpleasant. It’s like I’m possessed by some crotchety old spirit. Except it’s just me being…extremely disagreeable.

Have you seen those Snicker’s commercials? All of the sudden I’m an extremely sassy version of Aretha Franklin that you DO NOT want to be in the car with. (For the record, I would LOVE to be Aretha Franklin all day every day. But I don’t want to detract from the example.)

That’s real life.

I’ve learned to harness this monster (a Joe Pesci-like monster) by carrying snacks with me at all times. Most of the time it’s a piece of fruit and some homemade trail mix I keep in my purse. But sometimes I get a little fancy.

This is my go-to muesli bar recipe. Great for long car rides, picnics, brown-bagged lunches and safely escaping the hunger window. I love their soft and chewy bite, toasted coconut flavor and the fact that they’re easily adaptable to whatever ingredients you have on hand.

There’s no baking involved, they can easily be made vegan, they’re cheap and you know exactly what’s in them. They also happen to be a favorite of Mr. F’s, so I like to think that they make up for all the times I’ve turned into ArethLeah.

When I first started making these I used butter to keep them together, but I think I prefer the coconut oil version – adding an extra layer of coconut flavor. (I’ve started putting coconut butter on these babies too – I’m a woman obsessed.) The day I made them the texture was slightly crumbly but after another day or two in the fridge they were perfect – becoming slightly dense, chewy, oat-fruit-and-nut-packed squares of coconutty goodness.

Chewy Muesli Bars
– 1 cup rolled oats
– 1 cup shredded dessicated coconut
– 1/3 cup wheat germ
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1/2 cup coconut oil (or melted butter)
– 1/3 cup honey or maple
– pinch of sea salt

Optional add-ins (feel free to swap any of these out for what you have on-hand)
– 1/3 cup dried fruit (I used: figs and golden raisins
– 1/4 cup chopped nuts ((I used: almonds)
– 1/4 cup seeds (I used: sunflower seeds)

Add-in suggestions:
– dried cranberries, cherries, currents, blueberries, chopped dried apricots
– chocolate chips or chunks
– walnuts, macadamias, peanuts, cashews, pecans
– pepitas, sesame seeds

Line a 9 x 9 inch (23 cm) baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large pan mix oats, coconut, wheat germ and cinnamon and toast over a medium-low heat until coconut is fragrant and has turned slightly golden.

Remove from heat and place in a large bowl – allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Mix in sea salt and desired nuts, fruits and seeds.

In a small sauce pan, warm or melt coconut oil (depending on what form it’s in) and honey over a medium heat. Allow oil and honey to simmer for about 5 minutes and remove from heat.

Pour oil mixture over the oats mixture. Mix well until all ingredients are evenly coated in the coconut oil and honey. Pour into the prepared pan and press down with the back of a wooden spoon to evenly distribute the mixture.

Allow to sit in the fridge for at least 3 hours, but ideally over night. Cut into squares and store in the fridge for about a week.

Banana Berry Crumbles for Breakfast and Dessert

and they’re vegan too!

Dessert for breakfast.

It’s not even as rebellious as you might think. (Although, I do like to be rebellious.)

If it has fruit, oats, cinnamon, nuts and maple and goes well with both ice cream and yogurt it can be both, right?

I made these one night after a long and horrendous rainy-day commute home. I’m pretty sure the notion of warm, baked fruit carried me that whole extra hour it took to get to my door.

I realized that if I made a crumble on the healthy side of the dessert spectrum, it could also be a completely appropriate balanced breakfast. Win win win. All nonsense is kept to a minimum – the only sweetener is the natural fruit and a little maple syrup or honey and the result is a perfect little ramekin filled with warm, gooey berries with a crispy cinnamon-oat topping.

It can be made ahead and popped in the oven in the morning. Or whipped up quickly for a special after dinner treat.

Breakfast crumble. For breakfast or dessert. It’s totally going to become a thing.

Vegan Breakfast/Dessert Crumble
for Two

Adapted from Joy the Baker

– 2 small bananas, mashed
– 1 1/2 blueberries or other berries (if frozen, thawed and drained)
– 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1 teaspoon maple syrup (or honey)

– 3/4 cup rolled oats
– 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
– pinch of nutmeg
– pinch of salt
– 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or honey)
– 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
– 1 teaspoon water
– 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
– 1-2 tablespoons of walnuts and sunflower seeds (or whatever nuts you have)

Grease 2 1 cup-sized ramekins and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C.

Combine fruit with cinnamon and maple in a bowl.

In another bowl combine rolled oats, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and mix together. In a small bowl, whisk together maple syrup, oil, water and vanilla. Pour maple mixture over the oats and mix well until oats are covered and a little sticky.

Divide the fruit between the two ramekins and top with the oats. Sprinkle with nuts, and extra cinnamon (and even a little brown sugar if it’s definitely dessert) if desired.

Place on a baking tray and bake for about 35 minutes.

If you’re not vegan, I strongly suggest serving this with good Greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream.

Peanut Butter and Date Granola

Let’s talk about peer pressure.

I think it gets a bad rap. I’m actually a big fan of peer pressure.

It doesn’t always involve doing something potentially dangerous or bad. Sometimes your friends just persuade you to do something different that turns out to be a great idea.

Like an impromptu road trip to suburban New Jersey. Sure, that doesn’t sounds particularly enticing, but when there’s home cooking, puppies, and sweatpants (NOT velour ones) at the end of that drive, it’s pretty hard to see a downside.

There are only so many times that I can read about sweet or savory crunchy, creative, and satisfying homemade granola before I feel a pull to my kitchen. All of the sudden, I’m reaching for the oats and getting down to it.

I’m chalking the urge to make my own granola up to food blogger peer pressure. It’s not that I’m anti-granola, it’s just that I’ve been in a natural muesli phase for a couple of years now. Not that that’s a real excuse.

Anyway, a peanut butter twist sealed the deal, and the result was a happy one.

A subtly sweet, nutty, crunchy granola made with natural sugars and organic oats hit all the marks. Thanks, peer pressure!
I feel a granola phase coming on…

Can’t wait to make some savory granola next.

Peanut Butter and Date Granola
Inspired by this and this and this

– 1 cup of old fashioned rolled oats
– 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
– 1/2 cup wheat germ
– 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
– 2 tablespoons pepitas
– 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1/2 cup peanut butter (I go for crunchy, but that’s a personal choice)
– 1/3 cup honey
– 1/2 cup dates
– 1 teaspoon water

Preheat oven to 150 C/300 F

Combine your oats, coconut, wheat germ, sunflower seeds , pepitas and sunflower seeds in a large bowl.

Place dates in a food processor with a teaspoon of water and puree until a paste forms.

Heat honey and peanut butter together in a medium saucepan over a low heat until just melted together. Remove from heat.

Pour oat mixture into the peanut butter and honey and stir until all the oats are coated.

Add date paste and mix until well combined.

Spread the mixture on a baking sheet.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until deep golden. It’s ok if the mixture is still a little sticky at the end of that time, it will dry out. Let granola cool on the baking tray.

Store in an air-tight container for up to a week.